18 Jul Do You Really Need Multiple Priorities?

How many priorities do you have? Three? Five? Ten?

If you’re anything like me, you have an overcommitment problem and have been pondering a number of priorities. For my speaking business, do I want to write a second book, build an online course, or try to knock out both simultaneously? For the new role that I’m moving into at the Wisconsin Athletic Club (WAC), should I start recruiting fresh talent, launch a new HR platform, create a centralized onboarding process, integrate video learning into our university, or do everything at the same time? For my overall well being, should I take more yoga classes, integrate more core work into my workouts, cut down on sugar, or do all of the above right now? For my family, should I start a weekly date night with Rachel, practice basketball every night with Ellie and Mia, go on a family bike ride three times per week, or do all three next week?

Priority vs. Priorities

Last year, I stumbled upon an article about Google Books Ngram Viewer, which is a unique search engine that doesn’t get much attention. In a nutshell, Ngram Viewer looks at all of the books written from 1500 to 2009 and gives you the ability to find the frequency of whatever word or phrase you’re looking for. Over the last 500 years, I noticed that the word “priority” was used more often than the word “priorities.” In fact, up until the 1940s, no book used the word “priorities.” Immediately, I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t need to have multiple priorities. Instead, maybe I only need one priority.” Even though I know this, I always go back to having too many things that I consider to be a priority.

Thankfully, I was recently reminded by three key people, of the need to slow down and focus.  During a conversation with my executive coach, Joan Sparks, she encouraged me to spend time to coordinate with WAC’s leadership team about overall strategic initiatives BEFORE trying to start a number of different projects. When I met with my boss, he suggested going deep on one or two priorities BEFORE starting 20 different projects. When out walking with Rachel, she wisely suggested that I create and launch an online course based on my first book BEFORE starting over and writing a second book.  

The Secret to Life

The concept of priorities makes me think about the scene in the movie City Slickers where Mitch is alone with Curly. Curly gives Mitch the following life advice:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [holds up one finger] This.

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing.

Mitch: But, what is the one thing?

Curly: That’s what you have to find out.

I mostly agree with Mitch; however, you don’t have to solely focus on one priority to be successful . . . but you get the point. For example, I have one priority for each big category in my life. Most of the high performers that I’ve studied or spent time with seem to have fewer goals, with more focus.

Click to Tweet: True productivity isn’t about getting more things done. It’s about getting the right things done. @DerekDeprey

Do you want to be more productive? If so, the first thing you need to do is to actually figure out what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. What’s the one thing most important to focus on?

It’s Decision-Making Time

When you asked yourself, “What’s your one thing?,” I bet a number of possible choices popped into your head. It’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Having options is a blessing! It means that even if you are already successful, you have even more to accomplish. But in order to get to where you want to go, you need to make some important decisions.

Did you know that the Latin root of the word decision (cis) means, “to cut?” Quite literally, making a decision is about eliminating choices. What items do you need to cut so that you can achieve what you desire? Eliminating things that you care about is hard. You have to make tradeoffs. If you can’t make those tradeoffs, you’re going to sabotage your ability to succeed. Think about it. If you’re focusing your energy on 20 goals at the same time, you’ll likely have zero completed goals and 20 unexecuted goals.

Can you think of a bigger waste of time?

ACTION: Grab several sheets of paper and title them with the main categories in your life that need prioritizing. Perhaps it would be, Day Job, Side Hustle, Well Being, and Family. Limit yourself to four or five pages. Then, list all of the goals that you have under each category title. Take your time thinking about what you want to accomplish. When you’re satisfied, circle the TOP goal in each category. Eliminate all of the other “noise” that could prevent you from focusing on your top goals. If you catch yourself going backward and prioritizing the unimportant noise, refer back to these established TOP goals.

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